The Deafening Sound of Memories
It’s an odd thing how the same sound in two scenarios can illicit very different feelings. Children’s laughter, whispers. For me in this moment, it is the sound of a woman singing. A voice I know well. A beautiful, husky alto buzzing with energy. A voice that brought an audience. The same that lulled our children to sleep. A voice I should not be hearing and yet it roused me from my sleep. Strange though it be, but this voice, that of my lovely Sophie, is not the strangest circumstance upon my consciousness.
I find I am sitting upright at a table. A half empty glass of champagne is accompanying a salad and some sort of sandwich. At first, I assume I’m at a restaurant. Not another soul is in sight. No other customer nor workers. Strange. I look out the window that my booth is next to. The outside changes slightly. Moving. But that couldn’t be right. Landscape cannot move at will. It must be me.
I rise from my seat and walk around the space. Identical, spacious tables fill the rectangular environment I’m in. Every table has a window to look out of. A wooden door marks the end of the rectangle in front of and behind me. The singing that I’d nearly forgotten about is louder near the front door. She’s there. My sweetheart, my beloved!
I rush to the door. I throw it open. I prepare myself for all the emotions that reconnecting may bring only for it to cut itself short. Silence. Another empty room. Maybe I just didn’t go far enough. I enter the next room. Nothing. Another room. Another. Another. Another. After five, I’m exasperated.
“Hello!” I call out, not fully sure if I expect an answer.
“Ain’t it awful how much a heart can break.” The voice, her voice, comes from the room I had just left.
I rush back through. Empty.
“Sophie?” I yell out.
“Ain’t it awful how little it takes.” The previous room.
Nearly fuming, I return to the last room I was in. Nothing.
“This isn’t funny anymore.” I grumble to myself.
I resolve to go back to the original room I found myself in and find I cannot. The knob on the door in front of me will not turn. Locked. I pound on the door. I shove my shoulder into it. No results.
“You were supposed to be the one.”
The voice, still singing, seems to whisper in my ear. I startle and turn around. The once identical room is identical no more. The tables are scratched up, some even broken with wood splintering out of them. The leather seats are stained and torn. I rub my eyes. I squint. The newly damaged room does not change back.
Krrrk! A loud static rings out around me overhead. Then, the sound of a receiver clicking on.
“I can’t bare this anymore.” Sophie’s voice speaks now.
Her voice is diminished. Weak. I find myself mouthing the next line as if I had been the understudy in this bizarre production playing before me.
“I need you, Thomas.”
Just as the memory creeps in my senses are overwhelmed by the blaring sound of a dial tone. I cover my ears to no avail. The sound brings me to my knees, tears start to prick at my eyes. All at once the sound stops. The silence is as deafening as the sound before it. The locked door opens before me. Uneasily, I stand and walk to the next room.
The room before me is of a different nature. A nursery now. A cradle, a rocking chair, and a twin bed nestled in the cramped space. In the rocking chair is my beloved. Her shoulder length raven hair is all I can see as she’s turned from me. Humming sweetly, she rocks the cradle with a single hand.
“Sophie?” my voice breaks and I take a step forward.
She stops humming. I take a tentative step forward.
“I’ve missed you.” I dare to speak more.
She will not even turn in my direction. I continue walking forward. Just as I’m about to raise my hand and touch her, she turns to me.
“They. Won’t. Stop. Crying.” Her emerald eyes are puffy and her voice is thick of rage.
In the next instant she is gone. Not a speck of dust is left behind as evidence of her presence. I am alone in the nursery. I look down in the crib. My body tenses at what it sees. A beating heart. Small. Bloody. It beats irregularly. I step back from the crib. A soft cry with a nameless source begins as a whisper around me. The cry increases, becomes more panicked.
“Stop! Shut up! Just shut up!” I hear Sophie screeching as the baby’s crying continues.
The blood from the heart overflows from the crib. As it touches the floor, the floor transforms. It takes on a muscular feature, the blood coursing through like veins. I walk backwards to avoid it touching me. The sounds from my wife and child quieten and are replaced by the steady thump of the heartbeat. I take refuge on the twin bed as the nursey turns into a nightmare landscape. The floors and walls are now pulsing in time with the heart. Blood oozes from everywhere. The steady beat starts to slow. Curled up in the bed, overwhelmed by the never-ending sensory torture and isolation I find myself exhausted. My breathing slows in time with the thumping of the room. I do not realize when I fall asleep.
Krrk. The static wakes me up.
“I don’t know what happened. Penny won’t wake up. I tried everything. She won’t wake up.”
The voice is muttering this time. The words churn my stomach. The room has return to a normal nursery. The crib sways, calling me. I do not want to see what it wants to show me. I know what I’ll find. This too has happened before.
“Why do you haunt me?” I yell and receive no answer.
I try both doors but neither are my exit. Silently the crib continues to sway.
“Bring back the grotesque! Deafen my ears! Just please, please do not make me relive this memory!” I plead with whatever has entrapped me in the hell-train of my past.
My pleas are ignored. I drag myself to the crib. My hands grip the sides with enough intensity to send pain signals to my brain. My eyes are closed. I plead hopelessly to not see what awaits me. I open them. I look down. My beautiful second daughter, Penny. Lifeless. Sudden instant death syndrome is what the doctors will tell me. It is what the coroner will confirm after I insist there has to be something else. It was her! She hated our baby! How she complained and sobbed. And if she wasn’t crying or screaming, she was nearly impossible to wake up. It was a nightmare to deal with and then to murder our beloved little Penny. She was a monster.
The door of the nursery opens for me. Numbly I walk through holding lifeless Penny in my arms. She does not enter the empty room with me. Like her mother in the chair earlier, Penny disappears. I clutch at the air. Tears stream from my eyes and I scream. I have lost her again. I bang on the door that was once the nursery.
“Please come home. I miss you. I miss Jocelyn.” The voice is almost unrecognizable in its monotone state. “I can’t be alone Thomas. I can’t bear it.”
“Just talk to me. Yell at me. Say anything. Don’t leave me in the dark, Thomas. It’ll swallow me whole.”
“It wasn’t my fault! It wasn’t my fault!”
The messages range from emotionless to desperate with no pause in-between. No order. One after another with only the sound of static to separate any one message from another. Until the last one.
“I know I can’t make you understand. I know ‘cause I’ve tried so many times. I know you won’t pick up the phone. You won’t even think to call me back. Will you even listen to this? I can’t be sure. But I need to say this. I’m sorry and I love you. I hope Jocelyn knows her Mommy loves her too. This is goodbye.”
“This is goodbye.”
“This is goodbye.”
Another door opens and I walk through it. A closed casket is the only object in the room. Knowing the rules of the world and my inability to break them, I approach the casket. It opens without my assistance. Resting inside is Sophie just like how I last saw her. The gashes on her wrists still visible on her pale skin. She had been gone a week before they had found her. She had bled out desperately alone with no one to stop her. No one to know they needed to. Only I knew and I did nothing out of hatred. Out of grief over Penny. And yet seeing Sophie again disturbed me. Here was someone whose essence had vibrated with life and now was devoid of it. Someone who begged forgiveness over something she was not responsible for. Someone who was left alone in the dark. Someone who upon looking at her lifeless form I could no longer hate. I loved her. I missed her fiercely.
“Ain’t it awful how much a heart can break.” Sophie’s singing starts behind me.
I turn from the casket to find another Sophie, full of life. This Sophie much younger than the counterpart in the casket. She is singing and smiling in a dress that matches her eyes. I stand mesmerized. She finishes her song. She glides down the steps with ease and approaches me. She motions at the booth now beside me.
We sit across from one another. She holds out a hand and I take it. It’s surprisingly warm. She gives a sad smile that was a rare sight back in those days.
“We were in love once, right?”
“Yes.” I answer.
“What happened?” her smile turns down.
“I couldn’t forget. I couldn’t forgive.”
“But what was there to forgive?” she asks.
“I pushed that life on you and you weren’t ready. You wanted to perform and I wanted a family.” I find myself answering.
“And I murdered our baby.”
“You didn’t.” I reply and feel the full weight of the honesty in that answer.
“You thought I did. You were convinced. You left me.”
“I shouldn’t have. You needed me. You told me so many times but I didn’t listen.”
“Are you listening now?”
“I still need you.”
“Will you be with me this time?”
“Yes.” I squeeze her hand.
She rises from the table, still holding my hand. She leads me to a door that is now on the side of the room. Sophie lets go of my hand so she can open the heavy metal door. The world blurs by before us. Has the train always been moving this fast? I think as I look out. Sophie's gaze lures me back to her.
“Will you go with me?”
Sophie lifts on her tip-toes and kisses me with a smile. She takes both my hands in hers and she leans back. I let her pull me off the train and into her embrace.
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